The phone call came right on time for Leslie Frazier.
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Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, 900 South 5th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415, USA
Raymond James Stadium, 4201 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33607, USA
"I wish things had worked out better in Minnesota, but I am excited about this opportunity," Frazier said via phone Thursday.
The Vikings fired Frazier on Dec. 30 after a disappointing 5-10-1 season. On Jan. 3, Smith picked up the phone and rang in 2014 by hiring Frazier.
"It was pretty immediate and it felt good," Frazier said. "He told me he was surprised I was even available. He had thought about his staff and how he wanted his staff to look, and then all of a sudden, there I am. His words were very reassuring. And it has been like that from the day I got down here to Tampa. That phone call meant a lot coming from him because I have so much respect for him."
Frazier also has extensive experience as an NFL assistant, including stints as defensive coordinator for the Bengals and Vikings and as an assistant head coach/defensive backs coach for the Colts the season they defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
"I always had a great deal of respect for (Smith), being on opposite sidelines for the last seven or eight years coaching against him," Frazier said. "Just knowing what it took for us to prepare for his team, it was always a challenge.
"There is so much about him. We have a lot of common relationships — people that we both know even though he and I never have worked together. I felt like I knew him without ever having worked on the same staff.
"And now, in these few days that I have been here, he's amazing. I see that he is not only a great coach, but a tremendous person as well. I am really excited about getting a chance to work with a person of his character and also to be able to pick his brain a little bit from a football standpoint."
Frazier, a cornerback who led the Super Bowl XX Bears with six interceptions before his career ended because of a knee injury he suffered trying to return a punt in that game, said he feels Smith receives an unfair characterization as strictly a defensive-minded coach.
"He's a head football coach. I don't think he's just a defensive-minded coach," Frazier said. "We couldn't just say that if we had success against their defense we would win. His special teams were very, very good. Their offense was a challenge for us.
"And, yes, their defense was good for a number of years, as well. We felt like he brought the total package. It wasn't just one side of the ball. That's what a true head coach does. And you could see the affection that his players had for him."
The Bears and Bucs face each other next season at Soldier Field and Frazier is eager to fortify his new defense.
"(The Bucs) have some good pieces to begin to work with," he said. "You have a good foundation with (defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy, who is going to his second Pro Bowl. He's a three-technique that you want to have in this style defense to be successful.
"Then you have Darrelle Revis, who is still a top-notch corner. You have an outstanding young linebacker in Lavonte David. We just have to fill in some other areas and this could be a top-5, top-10 defense. But the cupboard is not empty."